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Words from GOD – Words to GOD





by Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

Introduced and translated by

George W. Macrae

Edited by

Douglas M. Parrott

The third tractate of Codex VI is not obviously related either to what precedes or to what follows. It is a heavily metaphorical exposition of the origin, condition, and ultimate destiny of the soul. With respect to its contents, there are some reasons for regarding Auth. Teach. as a composite or collection of several explanations of the soul’s origin, fall, and victory over the material world. There is a major break at 25, 26, where the narrative returns to the world of the Father where it has (presumably) begun, and from 26, 20 onward there are several sections containing statements in the first person plural. Moreover, a number of different extended metaphors are introduced successively to explain the same phenomenon, the condition of the soul in the world, although some key metaphors such as those of the food, the medicine, the bridal relationship occur in several sections of the work. Some of these metaphors are extremely common in the literature of the Roman Hellenistic era, e.g., the bridegroom and life as an athletic contest, but others are highly distinctive and almost unparalleled in their elaborateness, e.g., the fisherman and the dealers in bodies.

Auth. Teach. contains no typical gnostic cosmogenic myth — unless it is alluded to in the passages now lost through some of the early lacunae — but it seems to presuppose a generally gnostic, i.e., anticosmic dualist, understanding of the fate of the soul in the material world. It has a number of parallels in the remainder of the Nag Hammadi library, notably with Gos. Phil. (II,3), Exeg. Soul (II,6), Teach. Silv. (VII,4), and the Hermetic tractates of Codex VI, as well as with the Corpus Hermeticum. There is nothing in Auth. Teach., however, to suggest that it is itself a Hermetic composition. It is also distinctively different from the De anima literature of the early Christian centuries, whether of Tertullian and his sources, or of Porphyry or lamblichus, in that it is totally nonphilosophical in its forms of expression. Apart from a few expressions such as “evangelists,” “hearing the preaching,” and the like, there is nothing specifically Christian in the document, nor is there any trace of the heavy dependence on Jewish speculation which we find in so many other Nag Hammadi tractates.

Perhaps there is a clue, though a veiled one, to be sure, to its origin in the section 33, 4–34, 34, which contains a polemic against the senseless who are distinguished both from the “we” with whom the writer identifies and from the pagans, who are more or less excusable on grounds of ignorance. One is tempted to think of a Christian berating the Jews for their failure to heed the message which they have heard preached to them, but again there is no unambiguous allusion to either Christian or Jewish belief or practice. In its emphasis on the evil character of the material world, on the heavenly origin of the spiritual soul, on the role of revealed knowledge as salvific, Auth. Teach. appears to be a gnostic work. But it lacks the tone of self-assurance and confidence, almost arrogance, which characterizes many unquestionably gnostic treatises. The soul is in perpetual danger of succumbing to the “adversary,” or to the false attraction of the material, and consequently she must maintain a practised vigilance.

(George W. MacRae †)

Since George W. MacRae wrote, attempts have been made to be more precise about the group responsible for the tractate. Some have argued that they were in fact Gnostics, who only expressed as much of the gnostic myth in the tractate as was needed. A fundamental difference may be seen between Gnostics and traditional Christians, it is argued, in 33, 4–34, 34, where gnostic “seekers” contrast themselves with the “senseless” faith-oriented Christians, who have “found” the way, in sterile creedal religion. Others believe that second-century Christian Middle Platonists produced the tractate. They find numerous echoes to passages in the New Testament. They also find the distinctive Middle Platonic doctrine of two souls (spiritual and rational). Neither of these basically antithetical positions is well enough supported in the text to warrant abandoning the cautious assessment expressed by MacRae.

(Douglas M. Parrott)


VI 22, 1–35, 24

[…] 6 in heaven […] | within him […] | anyone appears […] | the hidden heavens […] 10 appear, and [before] | the invisible, ineffable worlds | appeared. | From these the invisible | soul of righteousness 15 came, being | a fellow member, and a fellow | body, and a fellow spirit. | Whether she is in the descent | or is in the Pleroma, 20 she is not separated from them, but they see | her and she looks at them | in the invisible world. |

Secretly her bridegroom | fetched it. He presented it to her mouth 25 to make her eat it like | food, and he applied the word | to her eyes as a medicine | to make her see with her mind | and perceive her kinsmen 30 and learn about her root, | in order that she might cling to her branch | from which she had first come forth, | in order that she might receive what | is hers and renounce [matter].

[…] 235 he [dwelt …] | having […] | sons. The sons […] | truly, those who have | [come] from his seed, 10 call the sons | of the woman “our brothers.” | In this very way, when the spiritual | soul was cast | into the body, it became 15 a brother to lust and hatred | and envy, and a material | soul. So therefore the body | came from lust, | and lust 20 came from material substance. | For this reason the soul | became a brother to them.

And yet | they are outsiders, without power | to inherit from the male, 25 but they will inherit | from their mother only. | Whenever, therefore, the soul | wishes to inherit | along with the outsiders — for the possessions of 30 the outsiders are | proud passions, the pleasures | of life, hateful envies, | vainglorious things, nonsensical things, | accusations 24 […] 6 for her [… | prostitution], he excludes her [and puts] | her into the brothel. For […] | [debauchery] for her. [She left] 10 modestly behind. For death | and life are set before | everyone. Whichever of these two they wish, then, | they will choose for themselves.

That one (fem.) then will fall 15 into drinking much wine in | debauchery. For wine is | the debaucher. Therefore she does not remember | her brothers and her father, for | pleasure and sweet profits 20 deceive her.

Having | left knowledge behind, she fell | into bestiality. For a senseless person | exists in | bestiality, not knowing what it is 25 proper to say and what it is proper | not to say. But, on the other hand, the | gentle son inherits | from his father with pleasure, while | his father rejoices over him 30 because he receives honor on account of him from | everyone, as he looks again | for the way to double the things | that he has received. For the outsiders […].

[…] 255 to mix with the […]. | For if a thought [of] lust | enters into | [a] virgin man, he has | [already] become contaminated. And their 10 gluttony cannot | mix with moderation. | For if the chaff is mixed | with the wheat, it is not the chaff that is | contaminated, but the wheat. 15 For since they are mixed with each other, no | one will buy her wheat because it is contaminated. | But they will coax | him, “Give us this chaff!”, | seeing the wheat mixed 20 with it, until they get it and | throw it with all other chaff, | and that chaff | mixes with all other materials. | But a pure seed 25 is kept in storehouses | that are secure. All these things, then, | we have spoken.

And before | anything came into being, | it was the Father alone who existed, 30 before the worlds that are in | the heavens appeared, | or the world that is on | the earth, or principality, or | authority, or the powers. 26 […] 4 appear […] | and […. | And] nothing | came into being without his wish. |

He, then, the Father, wishing | to reveal his [wealth] 10 and his glory, brought about | this great contest | in this world, wishing | to make the contestants appear, | and make all those who contend 15 leave behind | the things that had come into being, and | despise them with a | lofty, incomprehensible knowledge, | and flee to the one who 20 exists.

And (as for) those who contend with us, | being adversaries who | contend against us, we are to be victorious over their | ignorance through our | knowledge, since we have already known 25 the Inscrutable One from whom we have | come forth. We have nothing in | this world, lest | the authority of the world that | has come into being should detain us 30 in the worlds that are in the heavens, | those in which universal death | exists, | surrounded by the individual 27 […] 5 worldly. [We have] | also become ashamed [of the] worlds, | though we take no interest in them when they | [malign] us. And we ignore | them when they curse 10 us. When they cast shame in | our face, we look at them | and do not speak.

For they | work at their business, | but we go about in hunger (and) 15 in thirst, looking toward | our dwelling-place, the place which | our conduct and our conscience | look toward, | not clinging to the things 20 which have come into being, but withdrawing | from them. Our hearts | are set on the things that exist, though we are ill | (and) feeble (and) in pain. | But there is a great strength hidden 25 within us.

Our soul | indeed is ill because she dwells | in a house of poverty, while | matter strikes blows at her eyes, | wishing to make her blind. 30 For this reason she pursues | the word and applies it to her eyes | as a medicine, <opening> | them, casting away 28 […] 4 thought of a[…] | blindness in […] | afterwards when | that one is again in | ignorance, he is completely [darkened] | and [is] material. 10 Thus the soul […] | a word every hour, to apply | it to her eyes as a medicine | in order that she may see, | and her light may conceal the hostile forces 15 that fight with | her, and she may make them blind with | her light, and enclose them in | her presence, | and make them fall down in sleeplessness, 20 and she may act boldly | with her strength and with her | scepter.

While her enemies look | at her in shame, she runs | upward into her treasure-house – 25 the one in which her mind | is — and (into) her | storehouse which is secure, since nothing | among the things that have come into being has seized | her, nor has she received a 30 stranger into her house. | For many are her | homeborn ones who fight against her | by day and by night, | having no rest 29 by day or by night, | for their lust oppresses | them.

For this reason, then, we do | not sleep, nor do we forget [the] 5 nets that are spread out in | hiding, lying in wait for us to catch | us. For if we are caught in | a single net, it will suck us | down into its mouth, while the water flows 10 over us, striking our face. And we will | be taken down into the dragnet, and we | will not be able to come up from | it because the waters are high | over us, flowing from above 15 downward, submerging our heart down | in the filthy mud. And we | will not be able to escape from them. | For man-eaters will seize | us and swallow us, rejoicing 20 like a fisherman casting | a hook into the water. For | he casts many kinds of food | into the water because each one | of the fish has his own 25 food. He smells it | and pursues its odor. | But when he eats it, | the hook | hidden within the food 30 seizes him and brings him up by | force out of the deep waters. | No man is able, then, | to catch that fish | down in the deep waters, 30 except for the trap | that the fisherman sets. | By the ruse of food he brought the fish | up on the hook.

In this very 5 way we exist in this world, | like fish. The adversary | spies on us, lying in wait | for us like a fisherman, | wishing to seize us, rejoicing 10 that he might swallow us. For [he places] | many foods before | our eyes, (things) which belong to this | world. He wishes to make us | desire one of them 15 and to taste only a | little, so that he may seize us | with his hidden poison and bring | us out of freedom | and take us into 20 slavery. For whenever he catches us | with a single food, | it is indeed necessary for <us> to | desire the rest. | Finally, then, such things 25 become the food of death. |

Now these are the foods with which | the devil lies in wait for us. | First he | injects a pain into your 30 heart until you have heartache | on account of a small thing of | this life, and he seizes <you> | with his poisons. And | afterwards (he injects) the desire 35 of a tunic so that you will pride yourself 31 in it, and | love of money, pride, | vanity, envy that | rivals another envy, beauty of 5 body, fraudulence. | The greatest of all these | are ignorance and ease. |

Now all such things | the adversary prepares 10 beautifully and spreads out | before the body, | wishing to make the mind of the soul | incline her toward one of them | and overwhelm her, like a hook 15 drawing her by force in | ignorance, deceiving | her until she conceives evil, | and bears fruit of matter, | and conducts herself 20 in uncleanness, pursuing many | desires, | covetousnesses, while | fleshly pleasure draws her in | ignorance.

But the soul — 25 she who has tasted these things — | realized that sweet passions | are transitory. | She had learned about evil: | she went away from them and she entered 30 into a new conduct. | Afterwards she | despises this life, | because it is transitory. And she | looks for those foods that will 35 take her into life, 32 and leaves behind her those deceitful foods. | And she learns about her light, as she | goes about stripping off this | world, while her true garment 5 clothes her within, | (and) her bridal clothing | is placed upon her in beauty of | mind, not in pride of flesh. | And she learns about her depth and 10 runs into her fold, while | her shepherd stands at the door. | In return for all the shame and scorn, then, | that she received in this | world, she receives 15 ten thousand times the grace and | glory.

She gave the body to | those who had given it to her, and they were | ashamed, while the dealers | in bodies sat down and wept 20 because they were not able to | do any business with | that body, nor did they find | any (other) merchandise except it. | They endured great labors 25 until they had shaped the body of this | soul, wishing to strike | down the invisible soul. | They were therefore ashamed of their | work; they suffered the loss of the one 30 for whom they had endured labors. They did not realize | that she has an | invisible spiritual body, | thinking, “We are her | shepherd who feeds her.” 35 But they did not realize that she knows 33 another way, which is hidden from them. This | her true shepherd | taught her in knowledge. |

But these — the ones who are ignorant — 5 do not seek after God. | Nor do they inquire about | their dwelling-place, which exists | in rest, but they | go about in bestiality. They 10 are more wicked than the | pagans, because first of all they | do not inquire about God, for | their hardness of heart draws | them down to make them 15 their cruelty. | Furthermore, if they find someone else | who asks about his salvation, | their hardness of | heart sets to work upon 20 that man. | And if he does not stop asking, they | kill him by | their cruelty, | thinking that they have done a 25 good thing for themselves.

Indeed | they are sons of the devil! | For even the pagans give | charity, and they know | that God who is in the heavens 30 exists, the Father of the universe, | exalted over their idols, which | they worship. 34 But they have not heard the word, that | they should inquire about his ways. | Thus the senseless man | hears the call, 5 but he is ignorant of the place | to which he has been called. And | he did not ask during the preaching, | “Where is the temple | into which I should go and worship 10 my hope?” |

On account of his senselessness, then, | he is worse than a pagan, | for the pagans know | the way to go to their stone temple, 15 which will perish, and they worship | their idol, while their hearts | are set on it because it is their hope. | But to this senseless man | the word has been preached, 20 teaching him, “Seek and | inquire about the ways you should go, | since there is nothing else | that is as good as this thing.” | The result is that the substance of hardness 25 of heart strikes a blow upon | his mind, along with the force | of ignorance and | the demon of error. | They do not allow his mind 30 to rise up, because he was wearying | himself in seeking that he might learn about his | hope.

But the rational soul 35 who (also) wearied herself in seeking — | she learned about God. | She labored with inquiring, enduring | distress in the body, wearing out 5 her feet after | the evangelists, | learning about the Inscrutable One. | She found her rising. | She came to rest in him who 10 is at rest. She reclined | in the bride-chamber. She ate | of the banquet for which | she had hungered. She partook | of the immortal food. 15 She found what she had sought after. | She received rest from her labors, | while the light that shines forth | upon her does not sink. | To it belongs the glory 20 and the power and the | revelation for ever and | ever. Amen. |

Authoritative |


[ Square brackets indicate a lacuna in the manuscript. When the text cannot be reconstructed, three dots are placed within the brackets, regardless of the size of the lacuna; a fourth dot, if appropriate, may function as a period. An exception to this rule is the occasional use of a different number of dots to estimate the extent of the missing portion of a proper noun. In a few instances the dots are used without brackets to indicate a series of Coptic letters which do not constitute a translatable sense unit. A bracket is not allowed to divide a word, except for a hyphenated word or a proper noun. Other words are placed entirely inside or outside the brackets, depending on the certainty of the Coptic word and the number of Coptic letters visible.

| Small strokes above the line indicate line divisions. Every fifth line a small number is inserted in place of a stroke; the frequency of these numbers, however, may vary in tractates which are quite fragmentary. A new page is indicated with a number in bold type. When the beginning of a new line or page coincides with the opening of a paragraph, the line divider or number is placed at the end of the previous paragraph.

( Parentheses indicate material supplied by the editor or translator. Although this material may not directly reflect the text being translated, it provides useful information for the reader.

< Pointed brackets indicate a correction of a scribal omission or error. The translator has either inserted letters unintentionally omitted by the scribe, or replaced letters erroneously inserted with what the scribe presumably intended to write.

Robinson, James McConkey ; Smith, Richard ; Coptic Gnostic Library Project: The Nag Hammadi Library in English. 4th rev. ed. Leiden; New York : E.J. Brill, 1996, S. 304


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